“Please Ms. Smith, tell us, who is your favorite?” A group of kids crowded the teacher’s desk, each with eager, pleading faces.
“Is it Emma?” asked Mason, resting his arm on the desk with his hands under his chin.
“I bet it is Isabella,” Mai said, “or Aiden.”
Jamal chimed in, “No, it has to be Diego, she always calls on Diego.”
Lily had a mischievous smile, “I think we all know who it isn’t.” The kids giggled and some glanced to the back of the room to see Alexander hunched over his desk with his arms folded. Alexander glared back at them with a snort. His wild uncombed hair and scowling face seemed to ignite with anger. The group crowded Ms. Smith even more and started to laugh.
Alexander was a troublemaker. He had a standing reservation in the timeout corner and would stir terror in anyone who even looked at him. “That’s enough of that,” Ms. Smith said sternly, “I told you, no favorites. Now, get back to your seats.”
“But, please, Ms. Smith, tell us!!” the kids sang in a non-stop chorus.
“All right, all right, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m not going to tell you now, but if you will all quietly go back to your seats, I will show you tomorrow.” With a flurry of soft “oohs” and squeals, the children all excitedly scrambled back to their seats to finish their lesson for the day.
The next morning came and there was great anticipation in the room. Ms. Smith arrived with a box. She placed it carefully on a chair in the front of the room. “Okay class, I told you I would show you who my favorite is. I have put the answer in this box. I am going to allow all of you to come up and take a look, one by one. But you must keep it a secret. This person is extremely important to me. They are worth more than all the money in the world. They are full of incredible potential and can do anything that they set their mind to do. I know that with their unique talents, they will even be able to change the world.”
“Mason, let’s start with you. Please come take a look,” Ms. Smith said. Mason nearly leaped out of his seat and then suddenly blushed, realizing the whole class was watching for his reaction. Several kids giggled. He couldn’t wait to see the answer. When he looked in the box his mouth dropped opened and a huge grin exploded across his face. He laughed and smiled at Ms. Smith and nearly danced back to his seat. Jamal was next and he too was stunned and then delighted when he looked into the box. A huge smile and arms waving wildly accompanied him back to his seat as if to celebrate being in on the secret. Next, Lily paraded up to the front and like those before her, she grinned and giggle and put her hands over her mouth in surprise. Then came Isabella, Aiden, Mai, Emma, and Diego. One by one, every child in the class came to the front to see inside the box, each returning to their seats delighted, excited and giddy as if they had all received a secret prize.
A hush came over the class. It was Alexander’s turn. They all stared at him. His bitter face and folded arms seemed to suggest he wouldn’t be participating. But to everyone’s surprise he stood up. Gasps were heard as he slowly marched up to the front, still with arms folded and an enormous frown. Then, he looked down into the box.
Stunned! His frown split and his mouth opened up wide. Peering down into the black box he saw two wide dark brown eyes staring back at him. He gazed into those eyes, unbelieving for a minute before realizing what the teacher had done. It was a mirror! A chuckle formed in his throat and he looked up at the teacher who was beaming a full face smile back at him. She nodded as if to say, Yes, it is you, Alexander! The chuckle turned to a lump in his throat. He turned to see the class, all eyes beaming back at him with smiles of joy and acceptance as if they had all joined a secret club. For the first time in a long time, Alexander felt included. In that moment, he belonged. He smiled back at them.
“Clap, clap, clap,” a round of cheering and applause began to fill the little classroom. Alexander couldn’t take it any longer. Big tears welled up in his eyes and started streaming down his dirty face. He tried to hide them at first and even batted them away but they kept coming. He sheepishly grinned and looked up at Ms. Smith.
“Class, now you know,” Ms. Smith said smiling, dabbing away at the tears in her own eyes too, “You are all important. You are all worth more than all the money in the world. Each one of you is unique and full of possibility. Your future is limited only by what you saw in the box. That’s right, YOU! Give yourself permission to unlock your potential, and go change the world!”